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July 15, 2003

Speaking of putting things delicately. Here’s this morning’s Washington Post:
President Bush yesterday defended the “darn good” intelligence he receives, continuing to stand behind a disputed allegation about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions as new evidence surfaced indicating the administration had early warning that the charge could be false.

Bush said the CIA’s doubts about the charge — that Iraq sought to buy “yellowcake” uranium ore in Africa — were “subsequent” to the Jan. 28 State of the Union speech in which Bush made the allegation. Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein “a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in.”

Bush’s position was at odds with those of his own aides, who acknowledged over the weekend that the CIA raised doubts that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger more than four months before Bush’s speech.

The president’s assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.

In other words: he’s losing the plot. Hard not to sympathize. Keeping track of that many different lies at once is hard work. [12:25 PM]
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Comments on Speaking of putting things delicately.:

alkali ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 12:40 PM:

One wonders how conclusive a Presidentially pronounced contradiction would have to be before it didn't simply "appear" to be a contradiction, but thank goodness for small favors, anyway.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 01:05 PM:

Once upon a time there was a country where a paper called The Washington Post brought down a president who denied he was lying. Must have been a universe diverging from this one at awesome speed.

jordan ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 01:14 PM:

if we're to take the president at his word, what was he doing about it? aside from invading iraq.
what steps were being taken to find out why, and stop a nation (niger) from selling uranium to an "evil axis" nation?

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 01:47 PM:

I can undersand the difficulty in keeping so many untruths in the air at once -- and it is more confusing when the explainer has a hard time with uttering coherent sentences from time to time -- one does not know whether he has lost the thread or just mangled it.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 01:50 PM:

"In other words: he’s losing the plot. . . . Keeping track of that many different lies at once is hard work."

In other words, he needs an editor!

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 03:32 PM:

Or you might want to check your assumptions by following some of the links in this comment thread (scroll down). The title of that post is "don't bother me with the facts." If you are willing to be bothered by some facts, check it out.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 08:54 PM:

Absolutely. Also he didn't have the information until more than a month after it was used to pull the claim out of an earlier speech.

Thanks for the clarification.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 10:50 PM:

Ironic-- Bush is falling into a "Clintonian" conundrum. Whitewater, yellowcake; blowjobs, snowjobs; both Bubba and Shrubba had the absurd notion that everyone had to like them, so they kept talking. And talking. And talking. Sure, Clinton's "issues" were more the state of affairs than Bush's affairs of state, but-- the same problem. Talk too much yourself, and you create a story with "legs".

Bush is now giving the so-called liberal media the thing he HASN'T given them in almost 30 months: a story line derisive of him that will sell papers and boost ratings. So they're running with it; coupled with the daily death of a member of our military in Iraq, its not a pretty picture. Soon, the failing economy, gigantic deficits and irresponsible tax cuts may all be linked on the t.v. news.

I think its simple, petty resentment at being played for fools. The backlash from that Top Gun thing ain't gonna go away. The press can be ignored and willingly made into patsies-- but rubbing their face in it is a bad idea. And now, there's not even Ari to kick around anymore.

Karl's got to be feeling it.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of pricks. I'll be enjoying it while it lasts.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 01:11 AM:

Pronunciating Perro:
"so they kept talking. And talking. And talking."

The rapidly browning fruit on the top of Bush's tart:

It's not only the POTUS that's talking ("darn good intelligence!") it's Rice, and Powell, and (until yesterday) Fleischer.

And their stories don't exactly synch up.

And it doesn't help them when the babbling brown-nosers on the Right adds their own inadvertant dissonance to the chorus. For the brief period when Bush was a victim of the bumbling CIA, before the Uranium smuggling story became canon again . . .

Oh, never mind. It's more fun just watching.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 07:30 AM:

Patrick, not long ago you accused us all of letting the rightwingers set the agenda. I would suggest that this post is more of the same.

By this time, everyone in the world has enough evidence to know that Bush lied. Why not just take it as a given - regardless of whether the rightwing pro-war activists want to quibble about whether Bush really lied, or was just badly informed, or if evidence is yet going to turn up, or play about with revisionism - and deal with the big issues:

Bush wants the US to be a rogue nation, unanswerable to any international law. The invasion of Iraq, the existence of Guantanamo Bay and the proposed "trials" of the condemned prisoners held there... these are the signs and portents of present and future danger. Not the simple fact that Bush lied.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 08:42 AM:

Yonmei: but there are people who don't care about the big picture. People like some major US newspapers. Establishing without a shadow of a doubt that Bush was lying, in public, with everybody paying attention, can start to shine light on the whole thing.

The Bush administration have been dealing with the valid real significant things you mention by making them non-news. The lying is news, and not to Bush's advantage.

Meanwhile, I just had email from one of the three least political people on the island of Britain saying that Blair will have to go now that Radio 4 have used "the R word".

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 09:09 AM:

Myself, I tend to agree with Daily Howler on this one.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 10:11 AM:

That's pretty silly, John; that's accepting unsubstantiated negative evidence as an acceptable cause for war.

War is supposed to require substantiated positive evidence, what with being a significant, consequential act with repercusions on the scale of generations and all.

Merely misrepresnting unsubstantiated negative evidence for substantiated postiive evidence is unacceptable under the circumstances, and from the available evidence that's much too mild a description to fit what actually happened.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 01:07 PM:

Well, that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? From the beginning of this whole mess, Iraq’s been considered guilty until proven innocent.

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 03:37 PM:

Yehudit, I took you at your word and went and looked in that other comments thread. Unfortunately, I didn't find a lot of relevant facts.

In your paragraph beginning, "This is turning out to be the Bush administration's version of Whitewater: millions of taxpayer dollars spent for an investigation into nothing, just another attempt to harass the sitting administration. There is nothing Bush has said about Saddam's WMD capability that is not believed to be true by..." I found that a majority of the links didn't lead to current facts.

Instead I found opinion pieces, statements from people with the offices indicated in the paragraph, statements several years old (which were not used as justification for an invasion and occupation of Iraq), or only agreed with minor claims of the W. administration which did not seem to qualify as real causes for a deadly and expensive invasion. Several of the opinion pieces were from folks with clear pro-Bush agendas and I can only think that you included them for sheer weight of citations rather than any expectation that they would be accepted as fact by the skeptical.

Furthermore, calling the war on Iraq the equivalent of the Whitewater investigation is ludicrous on its face. Whitewater was an attempt to throw mud on the basis of imputed past indiscretions by a US president who made the right decisions for his country's economic prosperity. The equivalent would be detailed investigation of Bush's imputed past of shady business dealings. An investigation into the possibility that George W. Bush lied to Congress and to the people of the United States to promote a program which worsened the country's economic state as well as wasting its political capital in international affairs and putting members of its citizenry fatally in harm's way is far more serious.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 10:13 PM:

As the link to this story clearly wasn't available yet when the comments on the other post were left, allow me:

The CIA was never shown the documents on which the uranium claims were based until February of 2003

So really, the CIA didn't pass on this evidence. The CIA never saw it. From the evidence they were allowed to see, they decided that the claims were false.

I'm sure this would have been included in the earlier comments if it had been available.

Or if it was posted at Opinion Journal.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2003, 11:50 PM:

John Ferrell points to a Daily Howler piece on the coverage. I'm not sure how much I buy into Bob Somerby's presentation of the facts. His narrative basically comes down to "the press is attacking the State of the Union address for making false claims about Nigeran uranium, but the State of the Union speech didn't mention Niger, it mentioned 'Africa', so it could be talking about something else."

Ari Fliescher and George Tenet have both said that the sentence shouldn't have been in the speech, which they wouldn't have done if there had been good intel behind it.

In other words, Somerby might be right. The statement in the State of the Union speech might, conceivably, have been accurate and defensible. But the White House is acting like it wasn't.

So it seems odd to excoriate the press for presenting "those 16 words" as false when both the director of the CIA and the White House Press Secretary are responding to them as false.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 09:33 AM:

Howler's even better today. And then there's Max Boot:

Politically opportunistic Democrats are invoking preposterous comparisons with Watergate because of the president's statement that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Democrats smell blood because the administration has admitted that its own findings about Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium in Niger were based on forged documents. But it's quite a leap to go from faulty information to charges that the president deliberately lied. The real problem is that intelligence seldom provides certainty; it can only offer hints or clues that policymakers have to interpret as best they can.

That's precisely what Bill Clinton and his national security advisors did in 1998. In August, after Al Qaeda bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, they launched preemptive attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan because they didn't want to risk having poison gas released in the New York City subway. Even though the evidence was hardly conclusive that the Sudanese plant was working for Bin Laden, they decided to err on the side of safety. Based on the same precautionary principle, the administration bombed Iraq a few months later, even though there was no hard proof that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 09:41 AM:

And the factory that Clinton bombed in the Sudan turned out to be the Sudan's only pharmaceuticals factory. It was not, and it never had been, a WoMD factory.

I wouldn't try to put all this down to "politically opportunistic Democrats", if I were you. I am not a Democrat - they're far too right-wing for me: I am concerned that Bush lied to get the US into a war with Iraq, and is now blandly blaming "British intelligence" for the source of one of the lies.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 12:18 PM:

For those wondering why it's taking so long for Bush's lies to be recognized as such, have patience.

It was immediately obvious to anyone with any sense that the burglary of the DNC offices - conducted by a former CIA agent who'd been consulting for the CRP - had been ordered by Nixon campaign officials. But they kept denying they knew anything about it, and even after the ordering of a Senate investigation (which took several months to get started), the newspaper revelations of all this didn't achieve much credibility in the eyes of the general public until the small fry cracked, six months later, upon threat of heavy prison sentences.

Even after that, it took another ten months, until Nixon fired the special prosecutor, before the word "impeachment" stopped sounding to most people like a hysterical over-reaction.

It's early days yet for Bush's most blatant lies to develop legs. (And his previous lies are matched by Nixon's previous lies, which didn't damage his credibility in his supporters' eyes either.)

Mark Bourne ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 01:19 PM:

And in the Darn Good Neologisms dept., today's Word of the Day at Wordspy.com is "rumint":

http://www.wordspy.com/words/rumint.asp

Snip:

(ROOM.int) n. Intelligence information based on rumors rather than facts.

Example Citation:

Ray McGovern, a retired C.I.A. analyst who briefed President Bush's father in the White House in the 1980's, said that people in the agency were now "totally demoralized." He says, and others back him up, that the Pentagon took dubious accounts from emigres close to Ahmad Chalabi and gave these tales credibility they did not deserve.

Intelligence analysts often speak of "humint" for human intelligence (spies) and "sigint" for signals intelligence (wiretaps). They refer contemptuously to recent work as "rumint," or rumor intelligence.

—Nicholas D. Kristof, "Save Our Spooks," The New York Times, May 30, 2003


Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 07:24 PM:

"I found opinion pieces, statements from people with the offices indicated in the paragraph, statements several years old (which were not used as justification for an invasion and occupation of Iraq), or only agreed with minor claims of the W. administration which did not seem to qualify as real causes for a deadly and expensive invasion."

Just because a link is old doesn't mean it's not still relevant. One of my points was that practically every high government official in America, Euorpe and the UN were concerned about Saddam's WMDs from the mid-1990s right up to the moment we went to war. Another point was that the multiple reasons for the war were talked up plenty before it began, and it was never just about WMDs.

I used URLs from the time to illustrate this. As far as the "Bush agenda," I dont' know or care what someone's "agenda" is as long as they make a fact-based credible case. I don't sort my reading based on "agendas." For all I know (since you didn't specify) you could be one of those people who think any news outlet to the right of CounterPunch has a "pro-Bush agenda" in which case nothing I could point to would induce you to reconsider your views.

"An investigation into the possibility that George W. Bush lied to Congress and to the people of the United States to promote a program which worsened the country's economic state as well as wasting its political capital in international affairs and putting members of its citizenry fatally in harm's way is far more serious."

My analogy was that there is so little evidence that Bush falsified information to get us into this war, and so much evidence that there were multiple reasons for the war, that they were thoroughly discussed, and that the presumption that Saddam had a drive to acquire WMDs is accepted by heads of state, US officials, and the UN, that an investigation amounts to the same level of petty harassment as Whitewater.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 11:21 PM:

1) "Preemptive defense" is a bad precedent; in the past it has been used by the very worst elements in the international community. Legitimizing it by our actions cannot be a good idea. Just as an example: Saddam's pretext for invading Kuwait in 1990 was to protect Iraq from Kuwait's military threat and to save the Kuwaiti people from an oppressive government.

2) War is so terrible that it should only be unleashed for the very best of reasons -- when there is literally no other choice. We have seen, are seeing, and will continue to see, exactly how terrible war is. What we have not seen is that there was no other choice.

3) Discarding international cooperation, to "go it alone," is a bad idea. We have spent the last fifty years and more building networks of international trust and cooperation, which should not have been cast aside except, again, if there were no other choice. Several career diplomats resigned over this point: John H. Brown, John Brady Kiesling, and Mary Wright. The "Coalition of the Willing," especially when compared with the military coalition that existed in the first Gulf War in 1990/91, is a sad joke.

4) The attempted purchase of uranium ore from Africa isn't the only part of the State of the Union address that hasn't turned out to match reality. Other material that so far hasn't appeared includes biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 litres of anthrax, materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 litres of botulinum toxin, materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent, upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, and high strength aluminium tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.

All of these points were raised before the war.

Reality has a way of trumping wishful thinking -- the fullness of time will show who was right.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2003, 05:52 PM:

Interesting article just out today on FindLaw by John Dean (yeah, that one) Why A Special Prosecutor's Investigation Is Needed To Sort Out the Niger Uranium And Related WMDs Mess. Dean says that the SOTU address problems go well beyond those 16 well known words:

What I found, in critically examining Bush's evidence, is not pretty. The African uranium matter is merely indicative of larger problems, and troubling questions of potential and widespread criminality when taking the nation to war. It appears that not only the Niger uranium hoax, but most everything else that Bush said about Saddam Hussein's weapons was false, fabricated, exaggerated, or phony.
Bush repeatedly, in his State of the Union, presented beliefs, estimates, and educated guesses as established fact. Genuine facts are truths that can be known or are observable, and the distance between fact and belief is uncertainty, which can be infinite. Authentic facts are not based on hopes or wishes or even probabilities. Now it is little wonder that none of these purported WMDs has been discovered in Iraq.
So egregious and serious are Bush's misrepresentations that they appear to be a deliberate effort to mislead Congress and the public. So arrogant and secretive is the Bush White House that only a special prosecutor can effectively answer and address these troubling matters. Since the Independent Counsel statute has expired, the burden is on President Bush to appoint a special prosecutor - and if he fails to do so, he should be held accountable by Congress and the public.

I wasn't all that sad that the IC statute lapsed, seeing the mess it had been. But we need something along that line now. (Good companion reading is Dean's Missing Weapons Of Mass Destruction:
Is Lying About The Reason For War An Impeachable Offense?

Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2003, 11:55 AM:

I'm surprised that nobody here has mentioned the phrase that seems to characterize much of what has happened, passed to me second hand over a week ago as being from an ex-CIA person speaking on a news program:

"faith-based intelligence"

Kinda sums up a lotta things, in my opinion.

Cheers,
Tom W.

Chris Chittleborough ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 05:43 AM:

You yanks (I'm Aussie) have two choices re
terrorism:
1. Be pre-emptive
2. Wait for the next strike to kill thousands
of your fellow citizens

... OK, that's over-simplifying, but the core
truth holds:

There are a lot of people out there who deeply
and sincerely believe that
killing Americans (and Brits and Aussies
and so on) is the ideal, perfect way to spend
their lives (in a slightly unusual meaning of
that phrase). It's their duty. It would be an
honor. It would make them part of the key
movement of history. There is only one Good
Cause in their world, and it requires that YOU
should die, the sooner the better.

And lots of these people have lots of money.
(See? It is about the ooooiiiiillll after all.)

And some of them have (friends/allies/connections/
people they can bribe) who might be able to
supply them with weapons even better than
fuel-laden jetliners ...

Still think waiting for one of these guys to go
into action is a better idea than getting them
first?

If so, it would be only just -- but EXTREMELY
unlikely -- if you or someone you love is a victim
of the next attack. What a terrible thing to say,
but true.

Sorry this overreaction to Graydon is so long,
but I don't have time to make it shorter ...

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 07:49 AM:

"Getting them first" requires a sense of nuance about what constitutes getting.

The gang of neo-cons who figure the answer is to make people's lives better have hearts in the right place; neither their wits nor their logistics are anywhere good, but the basic maybe they think they have good reasons to hate us isn't silly or foolish.

"Getting them first" taken as being better terrorists, with a larger budget and many more troops and much more impressive explosions, not to mention taller pile of corpses, doesn't do anything good; it does prove all the anti-western propaganda correct and co-operate with the Islamist radicalization goals, but those aren't in any way desirable.

Actually giving people a choice between feeling really holy and feeling like they're not useless, irrelevant, ignored, and incidentally don't have bad teeth or dysentery anymore would be an effective pre-emption; saying we will kill you if you do not submit to evil is not, to people from a culture where, for the most part, death really is preferable to dishonour.

And yes, doing that probably involves shooting some folks and it might even involve a few battles, but the battles -- and certainly not the shooting people -- aren't the point. The point is the end to be achieved, the peace and the prosperity and good health.

Five hundred years and several rivers of blood went into establishing the rule of law and the rights of man; throwing that away for fear of the world we've created is a shameful cowardice or a contemptible opportunism.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 10:49 AM:

Chris: Still think waiting for one of these guys to go into action is a better idea than getting them first?

Boy, I wish it were that easy.

Terrorism is very hard for western democracies to deal with precisely because of the things that make western democracies good places to live: freedom of assembly, rule of law, belief in the rights of man, freedom of speech, and more. Democracies are squeamish about dealing with terrorism proactively for a very good reason: all the proactive methods require violating our central priciples. A pre-emptive war is a good example of exactly that.

It's not worth it to sacrifice everything for the sake of stopping terrorism. I'd rather die in a free country than live in a dictatorship. If we continue as we have been going, in some easily counted number of years, I will be in jail or dead because I am a dissident. Don't think I don't know this, but don't think I'm being overly dramatic, either. When the government acquires the ability to take citizens into custody without any proof or judicial oversight, without laying charges or letting the person have access to anyone, much less a lawyer, then the government has the ability to take dissidents into custody on the same basis. I would be surprised if the US began killing its Disappeared anytime soon, as became common in Argentina. Bad is not worst.

We can't be more ruthless than the terrorists, and it would be criminal and abominable to try. We need real security measures, not the photogenic ones that we use now. What on earth does a color code tell you? It serves only to frighten. No one changes their behavior, we are given no indication of what to look for, or where to look. Good security analysts look at what Ashcroft and Homeland Security have done and shake their heads in disbelief. We're not protecting ourselves, we're being stupid. I hate being stupid.

One essential of national security has been hopelessly compromised, and not just by the Iraqi war, though that's the most dramatic instance: We've trashed our international relationships. Information sharing (as the FBI and the CIA remind us) is an important part of creating security. As countries decide that the US is not trustworthy, and not willing to cooperate, they reduce or eliminate their voluntary information flow. Spies can't make up the gap.

The worst thing about trashing international relationships is that Saddam and Osama are most likely in, well, foreign nations. Which means we will need cooperation from those countries in order to retrieve them, should we ever find them. We will need help from other countries to track them down. We haven't exactly made ourselves the kind of ally that one wants to help. That is one of the most dangerous things. That has been caused by preemptive actions and first strike doctrines. God bless America. We really need it.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 11:20 AM:

Chris Chittleborough, I don't get it. What's the connection between "terrorism" and the Shrub's malapropisms about US intelligence regarding Iraq? There is no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the 9/11 attacks or al Qaeda.

(Is "You Yanks" a subset of "you people"?)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 03:35 PM:

Alan, yes it is.

Everyone: DNFTT.

Dennis Slater ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 06:56 PM:

"It's early days yet for Bush's most blatant lies to develop legs."

It will never happen. Do you think for one minute anyone other than a head-in-the-sand Democrat really expects the story about 14 word sentence that is actually factually true (and that the administration has admitted shouldn't have been in the speech) will still be an issue in 12 months? If people who really make decisions in the Democratic Party are basing their decisions on hopes that something like this will "devlop legs" they are dumb beyond hope. The 14 words story is just another media invention that gets them through the news cycle until something else comes along. It is a non-story. When stories by pundits start to use the terms "troubling" "larger problems" or "potential" like Dean did in another comment above say to yourself, "I give this story a week or two weeks at best". Why? Those terms mean absolutely nothing. All that has been said about this story has been said. Too many times.

Dennis Slater ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 07:31 PM:

When I read comments about how terrorists should be dealt with that include statements like we should not be terrorists ourselves, we should all be friends, be nice to them and they will be nice to us, the rule of law will ...., it makes me really afraid. Afraid for myself, for my children, for my grandchildren, and for my country. Is that how you deal with a thug with a gun in your bedroom at night? By not being a thug yourself, by trying to reason peacefully with the thug, by hoping your neighbors might help you, by showing him your anti-Bush signs? Our country has not survived for almost 250 years by letting others dictate the terms of our surrender to them to us.

We live in a different world now and it is not going to ever be the same. When there are people who will take planes full of innocent people and crash them into buildings to make some political statement, the world has changed. There very well be those who will someday put a nuclear device on a container ship in Long Beach harbor. They may kill millions to make a political statement. Maybe you have forgotten. I haven't. We cannot deal with problems the same way as we had in the past. If we do we will perish. If you do not want to take action to keep this country safe then stand aside. Just because you are happy and comfortable with thugs entering your house does not mean the rest of us are. We cannot definitely not put the security of our country in the hands of other countries. We should work with other countries against those who would harm us but we do not have to have their acceptance in order to move forward in our own best interests. If you want to put your own security and freedom in the hands of some ditch digger in France or sheep herder in Uganda, the rest of us do not. Chris is right. I would shoot the thug in my bedroom before he shot me or my family. I would not wait for some nice social program to come along to get him on the path out of thugdom.

Question: if you could push a button that would instantaneously (a) allow the government to hold ILLEGAL aliens for 5 months without a hearing or (b) Have terrorists kill 500,000 Americans with a nuclear device which button would you push? Now we know where you stand on terrorism.

Okay now everybody. Everyone who thinks we should have left Saddam Hussein and his two wonderful sons in power so they could continue to rape, murder, and steal please raise their hands? Ummm, why aren't those Iraqis standing by that mass grave putting their hands up? And those two guys with no ears? And the mother with 3 missing children? What about the father who watched his daughter and wife raped in front of him? What about the guy over there with the burn marks on his private parts? Ok, all you anti-war people can put your hands down now. Thank you.

Sorry to have wandered off topic. Again. I get upset.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 08:47 PM:

So you'd say that Bush 1 was a criminal for allowing this monster to stay in power after the first Gulf War? His character was perfectly plain already. No excuse for that, either, right? So Daddy Bush is responsible for all those rapes, murders and mutilations? (Never mind the extension of the Iran hostage crisis, never mind the murders he's responsible for somewhat more directly.)

And something I can't imagine you'll ever get: doing the right thing for the wrong reason is almost as bad as doing the wrong thing. You won't understand that, I bet.

I think it comes down to a different false dichotomy than the one you present: I'd rather die in a terrorist attack in a free country than live under a fascist dictatorship. I'm a city boy, but a Country Mouse.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 09:47 PM:

It was an imperfect speech, and who cares about a speech, right? Never mind that it was his justification for a war that's still knockin' 'em dead every single day, and costing billions a week, thanks to a lack of planning. We thought they'd all love us. We thought they'd all stop fighting. We thought everybody'd defect!

The press may just be talking about those "14" or "16" or "42" words, but there are more lies in there than just that. It was obvious to many of us that Bush just couldn't wait to go pound on Iraq, using non-existent WMDs and phony ties to Al-Quaeda, and cows being born with six legs somewhere as excuses.

Meanwhile, the North Koreans seem to have been inspired by his bellicose speechifying ("Axis of Evil") to go ahead and pile up some nukes while he's looking the other way. What's his brilliant plan now? More tax breaks? Maybe he's friends with someone who makes radiation suits?

Okay, he's not technically a moron, but he sure plays one on TV.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2003, 11:45 PM:

When I read comments about how terrorists should be dealt with that include statements like we should not be terrorists ourselves, we should all be friends, be nice to them and they will be nice to us, the rule of law will ...., it makes me really afraid.

Ah, were you responding to me? If so, I think that you should re-read what I wrote, or consider the possiblity that you put too many of your own preconceptions into the text. It is true that I do not think that we should be terrorists. It is immoral. It is also, however, impractical. Terrorists are hit-and-run organizations. Their chief advantage is their statelessness, their ability to hide, move about, strike and run. A country simply cannot do that; it is fixed in place. National security has to be built on facts, not on hot-tempered revenge. Countries that act like terrorists have increased, not decreased national security problems.

I don't suggest that we make friends with terrorists. Indeed, I wish we'd make friends with fewer terrorists. Columbia comes instantly to mind. However, we're back to the difference between terrorists and countries, again. Pursuing good relationships with our allies is hardly making friends with terrorists. As for countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria, who do certainly sponsor terrorism, it is still a mistake to confuse them with actual terrorists. Countries are very complex, and do a great deal more than just support organizations we don't like. We're experiencing exactly how complicated a country really is, in Iraq. Somehow, the Pentagon seems to have missed the fact that, once we won the war, we'd be in charge of things like water purification and roads and electricity and phones. Terrorists only tear things down, that is one of the things that makes them so hard to fight. They don't care about preserving things for tomorrow. We do, because our plan is to live in the tomorrow.

As for the rule of law, I am terrified by the way that principal has been treated as unimportant by so many of my countrymen. It could be you in jail for something you didn't do. It could be me. It could be anyone. It wouldn't even have to be an honest mistake. You could just be in the wrong place when the FBI needed a fall guy. This is the same FBI that, 30 years ago, helped the actual murderer give testimony which put an innocent man in jail for that murder. Not only did the FBI know, but they were complicit in the conspiracy to convict an innocent person because they needed a fall guy to protect their pet hood. If you get arrested because you look like the guy on the video tape at the convenience store, you will want to full protection of the rule of law. You will want the right to a speedy trial, to confront your accuser, to have competent counsel, to have a jury of your peers, and the right to call witnesses. How can those rights be extended to you if they are not extended to everyone? You can't tell just by looking who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. That's why the courts exist.

Is that how you deal with a thug with a gun in your bedroom at night? By not being a thug yourself, by trying to reason peacefully with the thug, by hoping your neighbors might help you, by showing him your anti-Bush signs?

This is a false analogy. If there's a guy in my bedroom with a gun, hopefully DDB will shoot him dead. (I'm not good enough with a pistol to trust myself to attempt it, but David is, and there are gun boxes about the house.) However, if DDB were to decide to go over to the local half-way house, invade with guns blazing, and then attempt to re-arrange it to suit him because some number of robbers had been through their program in the past, I'd call the cops on him. Reactive and proactive. Proactively attacking people is a world away from self-defense.

We live in a different world now and it is not going to ever be the same.

I'm always a little surprised when people say this. This is the same world it was before 9/11. I dunno about you, but I've been seriously afraid of a suitcase nuke for more than 20 years. I've known that terrorism could do terrible things to my country. I remember Oklahoma, and the distinction that people try to make between domestic terrorists and imported ones seems spurious, to me. This is the world I have always lived in, it's not new. Watching the towers come down was a horror on a scale unlike anything I've experienced before because it was close. It's the difference between knowing that there's a war going on, and having a firefight happen in your backyard. It changed my personal landscape. But my emotional map of the world should not govern how we as a nation behave ourselves. No more should your emotional map serve as blueprints for the future. I'm not saying that the sorrow and fear are fake. I am saying that responding based solely on fear and anger is not a good strategy.

We cannot definitely not put the security of our country in the hands of other countries.

That is another misreading of what I wrote. Things are connected to things. It's the way the world works. Big and scary as we are, we aren't bigger and scarier than the whole rest of the world. We need information and cooperation, support and willing help. Just look at the cost of the Iraq war. The larger the portion of the cost we have to bear, the more negative impact it will have on our economy. Economic security is part of national security. Impoverished countries cannot afford first rate armies and navies, cannot afford first rate intelligence-gathering devices, and have a disaffected populace which is never a good thing for a government to have to deal with. I am not suggesting that we turn our security over into someone else's hands, anymore than when a neighborhood watch group is proposed, the people proposing it are suggesting that you stop locking your door.

We should work with other countries against those who would harm us but we do not have to have their acceptance in order to move forward in our own best interests.

How on earth did you come to conclude that I thought otherwise? I wrote about cooperation, not approval. We work with countries who don't approve of us all the time. We should continue to do so. Work with, though, is not a euphemism for, "We'll do what we like and if you don't like it, lump it." Winning the war in Iraq and alienating large chunks of the first world is not a good trade off. Frankly, France is a greater potential threat to the US than Iraq ever was. They actually have WMDs. Fortunately, France is an ally, not an enemy. It would be best if things remained that way.

If you want to put your own security and freedom in the hands of some ditch digger in France or sheep herder in Uganda, the rest of us do not.

I can't parse this sentence. I think it is a slam at democracy, but I'm not sure.

Question: if you could push a button that would instantaneously (a) allow the government to hold ILLEGAL aliens for 5 months without a hearing or (b) Have terrorists kill 500,000 Americans with a nuclear device which button would you push? Now we know where you stand on terrorism.

Question: if you could live in a complicated, nuanced but real world, or push a button to let you live in a simple, clear, but fantasy world, would you push the button? Now we know where you stand on pratical problem solving.

Everyone who thinks we should have left Saddam Hussein and his two wonderful sons in power so they could continue to rape, murder, and steal please raise their hands?

Shall we go to war in Sierra Leone, next, where it is common place for the army to chop off the arms of people who have worked in the diamond mines? We could move on to the Congo, from there. Perhaps Indonesia could stand some attention. Columbia, do let's ge involved in Columbia! Oh, wait, we are, and on one of the wrong sides, too. China, of course, is in desperate need of a good invasion. Let us never forget North Korea -- never mind the very real danger of a nuclear exchange. After all, the Iraq war wasn't about national security, was it? It was about human rights violations.

I understand getting upset. I, too, am upset. We both want the same thing: we want to be safe and happy, we want our country to remain free and brave, we want to bring greater security and freedom to the world. We differ enormously in how we think those goals can be accomplished, and what the roots of the current problems are. I would ask that you try listening to what I am saying, rather than assuming I fit into a "loony left" template. I will try to do the same for you.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 12:57 AM:

Dennis Slater wrote: Do you think for one minute anyone other than a head-in-the-sand Democrat really expects the story about 14 word sentence that is actually factually true (and that the administration has admitted shouldn't have been in the speech) will still be an issue in 12 months?

Dennis, I suspect that in your head "anyone" means "anyone inside the US". Let me remind you of something. The only ally the US had and still has who is providing troops to help in the invasion and colonisation of Iraq is Tony Blair. (I put it that way because, frankly, he's none too popular over here precisely because he's perceived widely as "Bush's poodle", getting us involved in this ill-advised and illegal invasion of Iraq.) One of the big issues for Blair is whether or not he's going to be able to stay in power, since - post-war - he is now being called to account for the numerous lies and evasions he told in the run-up to war to convince Parliament to vote for sending troops to Iraq.

Bush said, in the State of the Union speech, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Now Bush declines to take responsibility for the important part of the statement (you know - the lie) Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa and intends to lay all the blame for making an "inaccurate statement" on the British government.

You may see this as an ideal way for Bush to get away with it. It's the literal truth: apparently the British government was taken in by the Niger documents and passed on the intelligence to the US, as is required by an unequal treaty between the US and the UK.

But what it really is, is Bush scapegoating his only loyal ally. Admittedly Blair has to suck it up, whatever Bush pours into his bowl. But if Blair loses power - is removed as leader of the Labour Party and hence as Prime Minister - there is no guarantee that whoever replaces him will be equally compliant with whatever Bush wants.

You may well be right that electorally this won't matter in the US: but in the long term, assuming that Bush wins the 2004 election, it may well matter that the US will quite literally be on its own. Aside from that, I take leave to tell you that though I don't support Blair over this Iraq war, I don't think that he deserves to get kicked in the face like this, and I find it offensive that you see it perfectly reasonable that Bush should administer a kicking to a friend in order to avoid apologising to his country.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 01:10 AM:

Dennis wrote: Question: if you could push a button that would instantaneously (a) allow the government to hold ILLEGAL aliens for 5 months without a hearing or (b) Have terrorists kill 500,000 Americans with a nuclear device which button would you push? Now we know where you stand on terrorism.

Dennis, your government is currently holding 11 British residents (9 of them British citizens) not only without a hearing but without significant human rights, and has been doing so for over 18 months. Not only that, but Bush further showed his "loyalty" to Tony Blair by stigmatising the lot of them as "bad men" - even though at least 4 of them, if not more, appear to be guilty solely of being Muslim in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not one of them deserves less justice that John Walker Lindh got.

In the UK, we have been dealing with terrorism for more than thirty years. We have made horrendous mistakes - we too have had the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. (You may have heard of the Birmingham Six: if not, try googling.) We know it doesn't work.

Furthermore, we know our citizens deserve a fair trial if they have been accused of a crime: nothing more, nothing less. To argue that they don't deserve basic human rights, or justice, because they have been accused of terrorism, is the wrong path to go down. Not to mention a considerable insult to the US's only ally, by declaring British citizens not as deserving of justice as American citizens.


Chris Chittleborough ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 07:31 AM:

The point I was trying (with only partial success)
to make in my previous comment was a relatively
narrow one about international relations. (BTW,
this is the first time I've posted a comment and
got intelligent responses. Wow! Thank you,
Graydon, Lydia, Alan, et al! Actually, I agree
with a lot - though not all - of what you said
when you thought you were disagreeing with me ...)
So to answer Alan's question (July 24 11:20AM): I
wasn't making any such connection.

I was [over]reacting to comments that pre-emptive
military action is always wrong, and arguing that
the only rational response to non-state
anti-Western terrorism is pre-emptive military
action - whether overt or covert. (Of course, it
is better to use non-military means when possible,
but occassionally you have to choose between
acting violently or being a victim.)

There is a (slightly) wider issue here which
fascinates me. Since the 17th century Treaty of
Westphalia, international politics has been
governed by the principle of national sovereignty
as the "prime directive". (That Treaty arose out
of the horrors of the Thirty Years War. To tie
this discussion back to SF, "1633" by Eric Flint
conveys those monstrosities quite well.) This
developed into the idea that moral principles that
might apply to national politics do NOT apply to
international politics. In fact, professional
diplomats often believe fervently that applying
"domestic morals" to international affairs is
itself immoral! (They would also call it naive and
stupid.) Hence the tendency for dictatorships of
all stripes to claim that critics who report their
misdeeds are "infringing their national
sovereignty": any such infringment is an
INTERNATIONAL problem, and therefore more
important to many senior diplomats than DOMESTIC
incidents in third-world nations (though, of
course, those diplomats will privately regret such incidents).

I hope you can tell that I find this attitude
revolting and deplorable.

Now this Westphalian consensus seems to be
breaking down. Bill Clinton gravely wounded it
when the US intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo. Kofi
Annan (of all people!) has criticised it as
outdated. Now Bush II is battering it in two ways.

(1) Creating (or even just trying to create) a
democracy via "regime change" is a clear breach of
the most fundamental Westphalian principle.

(2) The "Bush Doctrine" (of pre-emptive action
whenever the US sees no other good way to protect
itself) is also counter to orthodox Westphalianism.

FURTHER READING
I strongly recommend the writings of Professor
Martin Shaw, an English academic on these
issues. (No URL handy, sorry. I think he's at
Bristol University.) Christopher Hitchens (see
http://users.rcn.com/peterk.enteract/) is also
good, especially his attacks on Kissengerian
real-politik.

Chris Chittleborough ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 07:53 AM:

Followup: Martin Shaw has a web site at
www.martinshaw.org

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 08:37 AM:

Chris, thanks for the link - will check it out later (ie when not at work), as the issue of the US battering at the Westphalian principle is something that I see as one of two central issues regarding the present situation we're in: the other central issue, of course, is that that the US is maintaining with ferocity that the Westphalian principle of national sovereignity absolutely applies to the US. Effectively, the US wishes the principles established by the Treaty of Westphalia to apply to the US with regard to other nations, but not to apply to other nations with regard to the US.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 09:38 AM:

Chris -

Effective pre-emptive military action against stateless terrorists is impossible.

So long as their mobility is such that they have a shorter re-location time than your decision loop, it doesn't work; even if you find out where they are, they've moved by the time you can act.

Letting hunter-killer teams loose to, in effect, pursue their own policies completely distinct from the policies you want them to pursue is not a net win.

In case you are inclined to doubt this -- consider the case of Israel.

Total military domination; complete freedom of movement for troops. Past "air superiority" thorugh "air dominance" to "total control of the sky". Massive tech level advantage. Interior lines of communication. Every conceivable military advantage.

All of this advantage, and huge expense -- more expense than their economy can itself bear -- cuts the rate of terrorist attack down somewhere between fifty and ninety percent.

Since the effort of subjugation also generates a great deal of the will to pursue the terrorist course, that's not of itself an unambiguous success.

Oh, and Wesphalian sovereignity is a very good idea; if you don't allow that, you argue for the naked exercise of power, which is not very effective at producing peace and stability.

The answer to the problems the neocons are trying to address with military means is much simpler; refuse trade. Make, and enforce with rigour, laws which constrain your own citizens and corporations not to trade with these people, or anyone who does.

Yes, this is a material application of the Usenet Death Penalty; you might want to consider how effective the UDP is as a threat.

Of course, this would require the US government to actually care about peace, prosperity, freedom, and the security of persons, rather than the maintenance of the status quo and access to cheap asiatic coolie labour, so it would not be an easy thing to get, but as a mechanism it's just sitting there, ready to the hand of anyone who cares to take it up.

Chris Chittleborough ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 10:04 AM:

Graydon
Thanks for your comments.

Actually, effective pre-emptive action against terrorists is sometimes possible. Israel has done it many times. But you're right: 100% prevention is not possible. (So now
Israel is going to build a really big wall?)

I'm not saying that the current Westphalian system is going to disappear completely, nor would I advocate that. But the Westphalian emphasis on national sovereignty as the only moral absolute is failing, and I see that as a good thing overall. Naturally, it will take some time to work out the details ... and people will die in the meantime.

Which reminds me: Australia and some other Pacific Nations are currently intervening militarily in the Solomons, to try to rebuild a civilised society there. For the sake of the Westphalians (ugly word), we got coverage by getting the current (and not-so-sovereign!) Solomons government to invite us in. Our government is invoking the spectre of terrorism to justify the action, which will cost us lots of money and probably some lives. And I think they are completely right.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2003, 11:44 AM:

Re: the Solomons -- Australia has very reluctantly been dragged into a situation in which no competent local authority presently exists.

Something does need to be done; I hope those responsible have decided what they're trying to do, though.


Notice that you went from 'military action' to 'effective pre-emptive action'? The pre-emptive stuff that works can be -- and should be -- done by police, under police rules.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2003, 01:51 AM:

The big problem with defeating terrorism is this: Who signs the surrender documents?

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2003, 09:10 AM:

It’s okay, Jim. Eventually all the Bad People will be either dead or locked up, and then there won’t be any more Bad, ever.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2003, 09:33 AM:

The big problem with defeating terrorism is this: Who signs the surrender documents?

Oddly, I learned that from C.J. Cherryh ages ago. Don't fight wars with species you can't communicate with, otherwise how will you know when to stop fighting? It was in one of the Chanur books.

An ex-airforce sergeant on the Mnstf mailing list, Natter, pointed out that the reason that the US has such a serious problem with legitimacy in Iraq right now is because Iraq never surrendered. People have tried to make analogies to Germany and Japan after WWII, but he pointed out that both of those countries gave us unconditional surrenders. Iraq has done no such thing, so it's hardly surprising that the fighting is continuing.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2003, 01:11 PM:

The alternative to the Cherryh view is the Heinlein view (or, at least, the Starship Troopers view): Always fight wars with species you can’t communicate with, because you’ll never know when to stop fighting.

(Something I always wondered about that: If the Skinnies could talk to the Bugs, and the humans could talk to the Skinnies, how come the humans couldn’t talk to the bugs? But then, Johnny Rico wasn’t exactly Mr. Big Political Questions.)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2003, 05:36 PM:

Note that the Heinlein view is, in fact, an advocacy of a state of perpetual war. Or species genocide, but I bet they'd just find another species.

I'll go with Cherryh, thanks.